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Finding clarity through action

St. Jude internship helps MPH alumna zero in on future nursing career

Aimee Miller, MPH ’19, could have attended any number of universities, but being accepted into the Oregon State University Honors College made her decision straightforward. It didn’t hurt that her mother also graduated from the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

While at Oregon State, Aimee enrolled in the accelerated MPH program and completed her internship at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Now, she’s planning on applying to accelerated nursing programs. It’s safe to say she approaches academics at full speed.

Why did you choose Oregon State University?

Growing up, my family had always been big Beaver fans. My mom received her PhD from Oregon State in human development and family sciences, so when it came time to select a place to go it only seemed natural for me to attend the same university.

What secured my decision was being admitted into the Honors College, as completing an undergraduate thesis seemed really appealing.

Why are you interested in public health?

Public health interests me because at its core it works to promote and improve the health of all people.

I’ve always been interested in the field of medicine, so I found it fascinating how public health takes a step back to look at the big picture of what could be causing a problem that we might see on the individual level.

There are so many paths you can take in public health, and I like that it allows you to work on a variety of things while collaborating with others.

You completed the accelerated MPH program. What did you think?

The accelerated MPH has been an amazing experience. It not only allowed me to graduate with my MPH one year after I completed my undergraduate degree, but I was also exposed to graduate-level courses as a senior.

Although I learned a lot as an undergrad, having the opportunity to be in class with graduate students pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to think more critically about the material we were learning.

How did you land an internship at St. Jude?

During my undergrad, I was part of Delta Delta Delta and become really passionate about St. Jude as an organization as it was our national philanthropy. For the final requirement of my MPH, we had to complete an internship and I knew St. Jude had a variety of summer internships. I thought I would take a chance and apply.

I submitted a standard application online, then was invited to do a first-round video interview. I made it to the second-round and flew out to Memphis, Tenn., for an in-person interview at the St. Jude campus.

Even if I didn’t get the internship, it was still an amazing opportunity to actually be at the hospital and see all it had to offer. About a week later, I received a call from Tricia Spence, who would later be my supervisor, offering me the internship, which I accepted.

What did you do at St. Jude? Does it relate to what you want to do in the future?

For my internship, I worked in the Department of Family, Guest and Volunteer Services, where I had the opportunity to run the Volunteen Program. This is a two-week summer program for teenagers, ages 16-18, where they are given the chance to explore various health and research careers, while also interacting with patients and their families through hands-on events and activities.

My role was to coordinate and facilitate all aspects of the program including organizing schedules, securing speakers and preparing for all patient activities.

Entering my internship, I had a general idea of potential career areas that interested me, but I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do. I was hoping that this internship would help me to narrow my focus, and it definitely did. My time with the volunteens and at St. Jude made me realize I really enjoy working with the pediatric population and that I also want to work directly in patient care.

What is next?

I’m currently finishing up my internship course and then will officially be finished with my MPH. Right now, my plan is to work for a little while and then apply to an accelerated nursing program to eventually work as a pediatric nurse. 

What are your career aspirations?

Based on my experience this summer, I ultimately hope to return to Memphis to work as a pediatric oncology nurse. Being at St. Jude was an eye-opening experience for me and it taught me a lot about what I want from an organization.

I may eventually want to become nurse practitioner or move into nursing leadership, but right now I think it’s really important for me to work directly with patients before making any decisions.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Coming from a public health background, I find it incredible that families don’t have to worry about bills, such as treatment, travel, housing and food, while at St. Jude. As we often hear, health care in the United States is incredibly expensive, which prohibits a lot of individuals from getting the care they need.

I think St. Jude is able to break down some of the existing barriers to health care through their unique operating model, which gives families the opportunity to focus solely on the care of their child.

Overall, I definitely had a lot of expectations about St. Jude as I entered my internship, but I can confidently say that they were far exceeded. The mission of the hospital is truly at the heart of everything its employees do, and that makes for a really special place.